It was an evening of revelry and much rejoicing recently at the Garden Gallery, as diplomats, artists, poets, litterateurs, and other cultural personalities gathered for a belated celebration of eminent poet Syed Shamsul Haq's 79th birthday.
On a pleasant Falgun evening ushering in the commemoration of the Language Movement, Ekushey February on the next day, the poet himself started off proceedings in earnest following an introductory note by Enayetullah Khan, Managing Director of the Cosmos Group of companies.
It was inarguably the highlight of the evening. As the evening call to prayer from a nearby mosque died down, Syed Shamsul Haq stood up to reel off a riveting set of recitations, featuring some of his most celebrated poems from a career spanning five decades. Mindful of the impending commemoration of the Language Movement of 1952, the charismatic poet -- renowned as one of the finest exponents of the Modernist movement in Bangla poetry -- regretted the present generation's lack of reverence for the Bangla language. He relayed the story of one of its legends, Michael Madhusudhan Dutta of Jessore, who grew up with dreams of writing in English, and went on to compose some fine sonnets in the language of the erstwhile colonial masters. But later in life, Dutta suffered a premonition while teaching in Madras (now Chennai) that made him realise the treasure bestowed on him by birth, that he had ignored all his life, and returned to compose some of the finest poems ever recorded in the language.
The poet ended his recital by thanking the audience for maintaining “an ocean of silence that every poem needs”, after which the Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Dr. Gowher Rizvi, spoke of his admiration for the way Shamsul Haq has throughout his career maintained the “conscience” of Bangladesh. The evening wrapped up with Enayetullah Khan reciting his own favourite poem from the poet's oeuvre, after which Mrs. Anwara Syed Haq, the poet's wife and herself an accomplished psychologist, joined her husband to cut the cake.
Side by side with the celebrations, there was a sale of artworks from the collection of Gallery Cosmos and the Atelier-71 Printmaking Studio, part of the Cosmos stable. Part of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the charity Assistance for Blind Children. All in all, it was an enlightening evening for everyone present.
The writer is a senior editor of UNB.